Immigration bill gets 68 votes, now goes to Boehner’s desk

The Senate’s pro-immigration coalition won a sweeping 68-vote victory in the Senate Thursday, but fell at least two votes short of the target set by the bill’s two leading advocates — Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.

“I think we’re going to get plus 70 votes, I’ve never been more optimistic about it,” Graham told NBC June 16.

“We’re looking not to get 61 votes — obviously that’s the minimum. I’d like to get … a majority on both sides,” Schumer said during a April 25 breakfast arranged by The Christian Science Monitor. A majority on both sides would have gotten Schumer nearly 80 votes.

Republican Sen. John McCain also predicted a plus-70 vote. “I think that’s very doable,” he told USA Today.

The failure to reach 70 votes is a loss for the “Gang of Eight” legislators who crafted the bill because they must now persuade and pressure the Republican leaders in the House to take the next step, despite growing opposition from GOP legislators, activists and supporters.

That gives House Speaker John Boehner the power to bring the bill to the floor, or stop it dead in its tracks.

On Thursday morning, he told reporters that “we’re going to go home for the recess next week and listen to our constituents… when we get back, we’re going to … have a discussion about the way forward,” he said.

The Republican legislators who oppose the bill, and their affiliated groups and activists, will likely pressure Boehner to keep it off the House’s calendar for fear that some business-backed GOP legislators will ally with the Democratic caucus to approve the far-reaching legislation.

Some of the 32 GOP Senators who opposed the measure may press the House leadership to resist the heavy pressure from pro-immigration groups and allies to pass the bill.

The forecasts of reaching 70 votes were not necessarily sincere, as senators frequently exaggerate their support in the hope of building momentum. However, Senators also frequently understate their Senate allies, hoping to give their rivals a false sense of security.

Despite falling short of the 70-vote mark, the victory was an enormous shift from 2007, when President George W. Bush’s pro-amnesty bill won only 46 votes during an economic boom.

This time around, all Democrats rallied behind the bill, despite the nation’s high unemployment rates and provisions that would double the inflow of immigrants and guest workers.

The Democrats unified behind the plan, even through advocates claimed the bill had been made too tough on immigrants during the Senate’s closed-door negotiations.

They’re unified, say GOP staffers, because they’re hoping to gain political dominance as 46 million immigrants arrive over the next 20 years.

But in the short term, Senate Democrats now have to face constituents and voters, many of whom oppose the bill’s immigrant and guest-worker inflows.

“You have to go back home and sell it,” West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin told The Daily Caller.